Speaker vote live: Kevin McCarthy closes in on the number of votes needed to win Speaker

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WASHINGTON – Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy flipped 15 of his colleagues to back him in a dramatic vote for speaker of the House of Representatives on Friday, making sweeping gains on the fourth day and 12th and 13th rounds of a grueling showdown that tested American democracy and Republicans’ ability to govern.

A swing of conservative votes, including the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, brought McCarthy closer to grabbing the gavel for the new Congress — but not quite yet.

The stunning turnaround came after McCarthy agreed to many of his detractors’ demands — including restoring a longstanding House rule that allowed any individual member to vote to remove him from office. This change and others mean the work he fought so hard for will be weakened.

After McCarthy first received the most votes in the 12th round of voting, a 13th was quickly launched, this time between McCarthy and the Democratic leader, with no Republican nominee to draw the GOP vote. But six GOP candidates still cast their ballots for non-nominees, depriving him of the necessary majority.

The showdown, which has brought the new Congress to a standstill, comes amid the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that shocked the nation as a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to block Congress from certifying the Republican’s defeat of Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

Minutes before the vote began, Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives, tired of the spectacle, walked out as one of McCarthy’s staunchest opponents lashed out at the GOP leader.

“We don’t trust Mr. McCarthy to be in power,” Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida said as his colleagues stormed the floor in protest of his remarks.

The contours of a deal with conservatives who opposed McCarthy’s rise emerged, but a deal still seemed out of reach after three dark days and 11 failed votes in a political spectacle not seen in a century.

But an optimistic McCarthy told reporters when he arrived at the Capitol on Friday morning: “We’re going to make progress. We’re going to shock you.”

One significant former supporter, Republican Scott Perry, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, tweeted after he voted for McCarthy: “We are at a tipping point.”

But a few non-believers remained. Final 12th vote count: McCarthy, 213 votes; Democrat Hakeem Jeffries 211. Other Republicans Jim Jordan and Kevin Hearn scored protest votes. With 431 members voting, McCarthy was still a few votes short of a majority.

As Rep. Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy for a 12th term, he also thanked the US Capitol Police, who were applauded Jan. 6 for standing up for lawmakers and a democratic legislature.

The House cannot swear in members to begin the 2023-24 session. McCarthy has told lawmakers there are no plans to recess for the weekend, one Republican said, but it may be difficult to keep them in town.

So far, Republicans have been unable to decide on a new speaker, usually an easy and gratifying task for a party that has just gained majority control. But not this time: About 200 Republicans were stumped by 20 far-right colleagues who said he wasn’t conservative enough.

The agreement, presented by McCarthy to the Freedom Caucus and others, focuses on rule changes they have been pushing for months. These changes would reduce the powers of the Speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence over the development and passage of legislation.

Even if McCarthy can get the votes he needs, he will be a weakened speaker, handing over some of his powers, leaving him in constant danger of being ousted from office by his detractors. But he would also be potentially heartened by surviving one of the most brutal gavel fights in US history.

At the heart of the new deal is restoring House rules that would allow a single lawmaker to file a “vacation of the chair” motion, essentially triggering a vote to impeach the speaker. McCarthy resisted returning to the long-standing rule that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi overturned because it was placed over the head of past Republican Speaker John Boehner, which led to his early retirement. But, apparently, he had no other way out.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who has been a frontrunner in Trump’s bid to challenge his presidential defeat to Democrat Joe Biden, appeared to be receptive to the proposed package, tweeting a Ronald Reagan adage: “Trust but verify.” .”

Other wins for the abstentions include provisions in the proposed deal to increase the number of seats on the House Rules Committee, allow 72 hours for bills to be published before a vote, and pledges to try to pass a constitutional amendment that would impose federal term limits on a person could work in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Lest hopes get ahead of reality, conservative Ralph Norman of South Carolina said, “This is the first round.”

This may be the reason for the deal to end the standoff that has left the House of Representatives unable to fully function. The members have not been sworn in and there can be almost no other business. The memo, sent to the House’s chief administrative officer Thursday night, said the committees “must perform only basic constitutional duties.” Payroll cannot be processed unless the House is up and running by January 13th.

After a long week of failed votes, Thursday’s vote results were disappointing, with McCarthy losing in the seventh, eighth and then historic ninth, 10th and 11th rounds, surpassing a 100-year-old record in the last protracted race for speaker.

The California Republican left the room and joked about the moment: “I guess I like making history.”

Feelings of boredom, despair and irritation seemed more and more evident.

Democrats said it was time to get serious. “This hallowed House of Representatives needs a leader,” said Democrat Joe Negus of Colorado, nominating his party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries, for speaker.

What began as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 that a candidate failed to win the gavel on the first ballot, has turned into a bitter feud between the Republican Party and a deepening potential crisis.

Democratic front-runner Jeffries of New York won the most votes on every ballot, but also fell short of a majority. McCarthy ran second without going away.

The pressure on McCarthy is growing every day to somehow find the votes he needs or step aside. The new republican chairmen of the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs, armed forces and intelligence committees have said that national security is under threat.

Republican supporters repeatedly floated the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, ensuring the continuation of a deadlock that increasingly involves racial and political currents. They also nominated Republican Kevin Hearn of Oklahoma, splitting the protest vote.

Donalds, who is black, is seen as the party’s new leader and a counterpoint to Democratic leader Jeffries, who is the first black leader of a major political party in the US Congress and is on track to become speaker someday.

Ballots continued to show a close tie with 20 conservative candidates still refusing to support McCarthy, leaving him 218 short of the 218 normally needed to win a landslide.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support drop to 201 when one Republican switched to simply “present” voting, and later to 200. With a 222-seat GOP majority, he could not spare votes.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to future difficulties with the Republicans who now control the House, just as some past Republican speakers, including Boehner, have had trouble leading the rebellious right wing. The result: a government shutdown, a standoff, and Boehner’s early retirement.

The longest battle for the gavel began in late 1855 and lasted two months, during the slavery debate on the eve of the Civil War, there were 133 votes.

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AP writers Mary Claire Jalonik and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Speaker vote live: Kevin McCarthy closes in on the number of votes needed to win Speaker

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